Yadav stands tall amid the rubble
Umesh Yadav does not speak English. However, he can bowl fast - for an Indian - and move the ball too. His first press conference in Australia was on the day Michael Hussey had been given out caught behind without having touched the ball. The Australian press was annoyed at the absence of DRS, and wanted answers from anybody who represented India. There was rage in the press box and commentary booths.
Yadav had bowled to Ricky Ponting in front of a 70,000-plus Boxing Day crowd with more poise than he fronted up to the press. It didn't help that he has no media training or translators. One of the Indian journalists was asked to translate what he said. Yadav was asked why his side didn't want the DRS. "I don't know," he said. What he meant was he didn't know what to say, but he had frozen. It is credit to the newspapers here that it didn't get reported out of context.
The next time Yadav attended a press conference he had taken five wickets at the WACA. But on the same day, India lost four second-innings wickets, which had sealed the fate of the match and the series. Yadav was asked that day was if it felt bad that his maiden five-for was coming in a big defeat, about Sachin Tendulkar's unusual reaction at being given out lbw and other angry questions.
On a disastrous tour, Yadav's good days have been overshadowed by other bigger events. Under the shadow of the bigger picture is India's rare positive from this tour. If this whole series was played at Lord's, Yadav would be the only Indian on the honours board. Clearly, he is more at home doing what he does than talking of what he does.
Yadav is fit, strong, quick, and gets the ball to swing late. More importantly, he attacks the stumps, and doesn't wait for edges. Eleven of his 21 Test wickets have been bowled. Another has been lbw. Five matches is a short career for a bigger statistical analysis, but it is worth mentioning that he takes a wicket every 39.2 balls. It is not at large odds with his overall first-class strike-rate of 46.8. Attacking the stumps also leaves less control on the run flow, which shows in his economy rate of 4.24 in Tests.
This kind of bowling doesn't usually sit well with MS Dhoni, but thankfully, Yadav has been given the licence to bowl quick, and because of his good flowing action he looks the likeliest man to buck the Indian trend of bowlers losing their pace after a good, quick start.
Zaheer Khan said of Yadav: "The way he is bowling I am very happy. The way he is taking the responsibility. I think that freedom is important for him. At this age, especially four-five Test matches in, you are allowed to make mistakes. What is important is how you are approaching the game. What attitude you bring to the ground. I am very happy with his attitude. He is a wicket-taker, so that is what his job will be."
In other attacks, the mistakes Zaheer spoke about can remain inconspicuous. Yadav, though, is part of an Indian attack that doesn't always complement him with control from the other end. He has also been part of a unit whose plans were dated: they tried to bounce Ponting out at the MCG, which is a throwback to 2009-10.
Yadav is hardly a finished article. He can get carried away with the short ball, he was ineffective in Sydney, but already he has shown the best grasp among Indians of what length needs to be bowled on pitches that have helped seam movement and swing.
As India look to salvage something in the series, Adelaide promises to be the biggest test in Yadav's short career. The pitch will be flatter, the opposition is on a high, but if the Indian batsmen can finally deliver, Yadav might, for a change, have some cushion to work with.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo